Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interview with Rebecca Drake, Author of Just Between Us + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Rebecca Drake to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Just Between Us from St. Martin's Press, a MacMillan imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Rebecca! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Rebecca Drake is the author of the novels Don't Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story "Loaded," which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. Just Between Us is her latest novel.

A former journalist and native New Yorker, Rebecca currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last month:

Four suburban mothers conspire to cover up a deadly crime in Just Between Us, a heart-stopping novel of suspense by Rebecca Drake.

Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.

Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengths they’ll go to in order to help a friend.

Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Just Between Us. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?

I love first lines, too! Here’s the opening line of Just Between Us:
Funerals for murder victims are distinguished from other services by the curiosity seekers.
I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that as a society we’re drawn to immerse ourselves in public tragedies. People seem to feel a need to find a connection, however tenuous, with crimes or other calamitous events, and I’ve always found that somewhat macabre and fascinating.

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

My road to publication was long and varied, but I think that’s true for lots of writers. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a novelist, but it took me many years to realize that dream. I started writing fiction seriously when my children were small and I had a couple of manuscripts in the drawer before having the good fortune to meet and be mentored by author Nancy Martin. She critiqued my then latest effort—it was a hard critique, but very valuable. It took me six months to rewrite that novel and I got my first agent after that.

Of course, like most writers, I had dreams of instant success, but that novel didn’t sell and it wasn’t until three proposals later that I landed a contract with an editor who liked my writing. I published three novels, and then I had a slow period, where I was living between the United States and Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, and there were numerous health crises with family members and friends. I kept writing, albeit more slowly, and ultimately I finished another book and found a new agent, who sold it to St. Martin’s Press. That book was Only Ever You, a standalone psychological thriller that came out in 2016. Just Between Us is my latest psychological thriller.

I’ve learned that it’s important to be persistent, to be brave, to advocate for yourself, and to learn as much as you can about the business, while staying focused on craft. Ultimately, the only thing writers can control is their craft.

Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

Yes and no. Writers pull from their lives all the time, but usually not the way that non-writers imagine. When I was writing my very first crime novel (which ended up in a drawer), I based a character on a really mean boss I’d had, killing him off in different ways through multiple revisions until I finally realized that I kept rewriting the scene because it was cathartic, not because it was important for the novel.

Since then, I’ve never based a character on a specific person. However, I’m often inspired by my real life and will incorporate the personality traits of people I know, or their ways of acting or speaking, in my work. For instance, Just Between Us explores friendship and loyalty, and I drew on my own friendships, particularly the way my female friends talk with and about each other, when creating the characters and their bond with one another.

Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Just Between Us stand out from the rest?

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but since you’re asking me to, I’ll repeat what early readers and reviewers have said, which is that Just Between Us is a fast-paced story with lots of plot twists and great characters that asks some really compelling questions: How far would you go to help a friend? And, how much can we ever know about another person’s marriage?

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Rebecca's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Just Between Us, so you don't want to miss that either!

Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

I wish I’d known at the outset something that took me years to learn—when agents and editors say that they want something “fresh” or “new,” what they really mean is familiar with a twist. In order to get published, writers need to be clear about where there novel would be shelved in a bookstore (e.g. mystery, romance, sci-fi) and they need to have an idea that reminds the agents and editors of other successful books in that genre/category, while having something new or different to say.

Interesting! That really is an insider perspective that I never would have figured out myself. Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Take the risk and pursue the dreams you want to, but do so in a smart way. So if your dream is to write novels, don’t up and quit your day job, but do go for it and write that book you have in you.

Where can you be found on the web?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Rebecca! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Just Between Us—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Rebecca's question in the comments below:
What book have you loved so much that you’ve read it multiple times?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Rebecca and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

While I do love a lot of books intensely, it takes a lot of patience for me to revisit anything more than once. I think first reads will always be a different experience, which may hinder your capacity to enjoy multiple readings. That said, I have read The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye several times each. Rather predictable answers, but both books are classics for a reason!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends January 30th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!